All of us are human…

I am participating in the #moocmooc, a six-week online exploration of critical pedagogy. This week, one of the questions for reflection is:

Is the primary effort of education bent toward the humanization of its participants (learners and educators alike)? If it is not, should it be? What does humanization look like as curricula, as syllabi, as lesson plan?

I would like to explore that notion of “humanization”.

Freire, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed Chapter 2 speaks of the way the banking model of education dehumanizes the individual. The term “dehumanization“, as Freire uses it, is associated with the capacity to “annul the student’s creative power”, the “effort to turn men and women into automatons”, and notions of dependence and passivity. The reference to automatons seems to link to a lack of “humanity”, but it is less clear to me that the other ideas do, and I would strongly resist calling even those who have been completely processed by the banking model of education anything less than human.

The opposite of “dehumanization” is termed “humanization” in the chapter. The aim of the revolutionary education that Freire describes is to “humanize”. Does this mean to ‘make human’? Or is it ‘make more human’? I am not sure that “humanization” is the opposite of “dehumanization”. We all start out human, and we may then be dehumanized in some way, but I am not sure how the movement in the other direction works. Is it possible to be more human than human?

Freire also refers to the “ontological vocation to be more fully human”. If the work of revolutionary education is to “humanize”, then the implicit assumption would appear to be that the student begins the process as something not fully human, or less fully human. The problem that arises here is that the term “humanization” risks the emergence of exactly the kind of dichotomy that Freire criticises. Some of us are human, others are still to be humanized. Or perhaps, ‘all of us are human, but some are more human than others’. I am not sure that the dialogue that is envisaged is likely to emerge if any of the individuals involved is implicitly viewed by the others as in need of “humanization”.

It seems to me that being human is not a question of shades or degrees. Each of us has an equal right to a voice and to participation, and most of all to autonomy, and the goal of education would be for individuals to develop this autonomy, which is what gives them the capacity to participate fully, and share meaning/fully. The goal is for the learner to find a more articulate voice with which to name the world, and to live more completely with/in the world. This is Freire’s view, but the notion of “humanization” seems to me to get in the way. I would suggest that it is is not the primary effort of education, nor should it be.


7 thoughts on “All of us are human…

    • Possibly, especially if we are really sure he has been dehumanized. But if not, if just a child, part of the “Mob of solid Bliss”, then I am not sure “humanizing” fits.

    • But that’s really assuming someone is less human because they have a diff perspective from urs. In that sense, men who oppress women are less human? One of things Freire emphasizes is the importance of NOT eventually losing our belief in the humanity of the oppressor, or we as oppressed will never find a,way out! I’ll tweet out an old post about that

  1. I like netbimbette’s suggestion of rehumanisation but it’s complex I think. I haven’t read the chapter but when I read your account I thought about an article that I once read on the Web and have never found since. It reported research on the decline in the number and type of questions that pre-schoolers ask in comparison with children as they become more ‘schooled’. In thinking about education, structurally the institution could be dehumanising in its preparation for the factory or whatever. Individual experiences of the schooled could include humanising where teachers offer support and learning activities help some children overcome the dehumanising effects of their home lives ( from economic or social deprivation). It could also be dehumanising because of the curriculum or poor teaching. So each individual has a complex set of experiences that might aggregate across many individuals to a generalised impression. So change for the better can come from better teachers and structural change – in education and society.

  2. You’ve touched upon a criticism of Freire that is rarely reiterated – the terms humanization and conscientization (consciousness-raising; can’t remember spelling but it is translated from Portuguese of course) – they sound like they r treating humans as machines to be technically modified, and especially the humanization which you point out assumes ppl r less human before it. Maybe a better approach would be to name it sthg more gentle like “educators who treat learners as whole humans” or a holistic approach to bringing the full human into the learning environment?

    • I love the word gentle there, Maha. Something that struck me on rereading Freire for this was a certain harshness. It is there is some of the language, and this might be changed, especially as there may be something altered by the translation, but it also seems to underlie the words. Despite what Freire says about not forgetting the humanity of the oppressor, there is an “us and them” feel to it, something combative. While on one level the banking model and all it stands for needs to be resisted, it seems to me that critical pedagogy in practice is a more gentle thing. Critique working through quiet action, like currents of deep water softly eroding stone pilings.

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